[Ed. – The problem with these designations is not that things like ancient Anasazi cliff dwellings shouldn’t be preserved. It’s that environmental extremists leverage the designations to cut off all kinds of activity — such as cattle grazing, with which extremists are suspiciously obsessed — that could very well continue without the slightest inconvenience to the ancient cliff dwellings. The answer is not to have no preservation; the answer is to define the requirements for preservation more narrowly, and therefore more sensibly and honestly. P.S. If the land is important to the tribes as a cultural legacy, then transfer it to them and let them administer it. I guarantee you, they’ll be offering it for fee-based grazing, and portions of it for mining and drilling, within a year. Somehow, they’ll also manage to preserve the cliff dwellings and other irreplaceable cultural artifacts, which certainly should be protected.]
Today, the land known as Bears Ears — named for twin buttes that jut out over the horizon — has become something else altogether: a battleground in the fight over how much power Washington exerts over federally controlled Western landscapes.
At a moment when much of President Obama’s environmental agenda has been blocked by Congress and stalled in the courts, the president still has the power under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to create national monuments on federal lands with the stroke of a pen. A coalition of tribes, with support from conservation groups, is pushing for a new monument here in the red-rock deserts, arguing it would protect 1.9 million acres of culturally significant land from new mining and drilling and become a final major act of conservation for the administration. …
Conservative lawmakers across the state have lined up to oppose any new monument. Ranchers, county commissioners, business groups and even some local tribal members object to it as a land grab that would add crippling restrictions on animal grazing, oil and gas drilling and road-building in a rural county that never saw its share of Utah’s economic growth.